Monday, July 17, 2006

Anti-homeschooling Views - part 1

After my Rants, Raves and Comments series (part 1, part2, part3), I've spent some time considering the source of anti-homeschooling sentiments.

A dislike is not born in a vacuum.

So, what do you think are the leading reasons people have for disliking homeschooling?

My first category is perspective. We interpret events around us looking through the lense of our own experience. Then, what are the experiences that lead to a negative view of homeschooling?


1. A personal experience with a "bad" homeschooler

I've known a few children who I thought might be better off in school than at home with an imbalanced parent. The problem wasn't homeschooling. Going to school would not change the reality that these kids were stuck with unstable parents. I know someone who took her kids on the road with her drug dealing/truck driver boy friend. She called it homeschooling. It wasn't. It was neglect. If that were my only experience with homeschooling, I wouldn't think very highly of homeschooling either.


2. No personal experience with homeschoolers

It is human nature to be afraid of something you know nothing about. If you don't personally know any homeschoolers and you hear a story in the news about a homeschooler who abused their children, it would be easy to form a prejudice against homeschooling. Prejudice grows when there is limited information in the public view.


3. Response to anti-public-school attitudes

Disdain from homeschoolers towards families who have their children in public school does not promote goodwill towards homeschooling. I admit sometimes I do "think" those kind of thoughts, but I try very hard not to show it. I constantly remind my children that familes whose children go to public school can still be very nice (even if our personal experience is sometimes to the contrary.) I try very hard not to assume I know better than the parents what is best for their children.


4. Illusion of cause and effect

Some parents choose to homeschool because they have children who don't do well in a school-like setting. It is easy to misjudge this situation from the outside. Before we had children, I knew a family who homeschooled their children. The children were clingy and would not speak in front of even the smallest group. At the time, I felt such rage ever time I saw those children, with their fearfulness. I attributed this state of affairs to bad homeschooling.

Since then, I've met other really good homeschool families whose parenting I thought was superb, and yet they had a clingy, shy child. I came to the conclusion, that some children are just born that way and traumatizing a shy child by sending them to school would not change his nature. In fact, it would probably make it worse. I made the mistaken assumption that homeschooling caused the child to be unusually shy. I suspect that the parents were initially attracted to homeschooling becaue it well suited their extremely shy children.

To be continued.... Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

(I've sketched out a half dozen more reasons, but I can only do so many coherent thoughts at one time)

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24 comments:

derek said...

I know where my own previously held perceptions of homeschool came from: my parents. I had a boy in my Boy Scout troop who was homeschooled. He was a bit of a "nerd" compared to the other boys, but so was I and we got along well. The next year he left homeschooling to go to high school with us. After the fall semester he began homeschooling again. My parents said it was because he wasn't "properly socialized" and didn't know how to talk to other kids. I believed this malarky, and it completely shaped my perspective of all homeschooled kids. The thing that changed my mind was going to work for a woman who homeschooled her kids. I took care of her 14 year-old son, who had cerebral palsy, after my school while she tutored other homeschooled kids and taught her own. It completely changed my perspective. Her daughter had been to high school for a year and found it so boring and unchallenging that she begged to be taken out. Now that I look back on that boy who was in my Boy Scout troop, I realize that he wasn't socially inept. I can specifically remember hanging out with the kid and getting along with him just fine. I let that one comment by my parents color my whole perspective. I just thank God he led me to go work for that woman. Where would my wife and I be had I not?

lori said...

I think there's a category that straddles your categories 2 and 3. People not only fear what they don't know, but they fear people who differ from them (the more dramatic the difference, the more fear) and who make choices that challenge their own choices. When people home school, they reject public school. They may have nothing in particular against public school and never even mention public school, but still, it's a rejection. In the U.S., people need a lot of validation for their lifestyle choices, and they usually get it from the sameness of their suburban community and from their schools. When someone in that community steps outside the box, people immediately label it weird or dangerous or inferior because it makes them feel better about themselves.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Try the reverse of your questioin: Why do people accept the idea of school? When I suggest to people that society might be better off without compulsory attendance laws and tax subsidies to education, people often say: "It's important that all children learn X." Funny thing is, there's wide difference of opinion about X. For some it's basic literacy and numeracy, for others it's civic responsibility, and for yet others it's environmental awareness. I suggest that what people get out of support for collective education resembles what what people get out of the purchase of a lottery ticket. This is not irrational, as some economists suggest. People get from the purchase of a lottery ticket what they get from the purchase of a theater ticket, a few hours (or days, if you purchase the lottery ticket far enough in advance) of fantasy: "Life will be different when I have $50 million." You can't enjoy the movie unless you buy a ticket, and you can't enjoy the lottery fantasy unless you buy a ticket. Similarly, although you probably will not win the contest for control of school policy, you cannot enjoy the fantasy of the beautiful world which would result if you did unless it's possible that someone might. A world of homeschoolers offers no room for this infantile power fantasy. Therefore homeschooling is bad.

Daryl Cobranchi said...

I think you missed ego. A lot of teachers are insulted that we think we can do as well as they at educating our own. It is a personal and professional affront.

The fact that we show over and over again that we can, in fact, "do the job" is just infuriating to them as it puts the lie to their 4+ years of "professional" training.

Janine Cate said...

> People not only fear what they don't know, but they fear people who differ from them (the more dramatic the difference, the more fear) and who make choices that challenge their own choices.

>I think you missed ego.


I will explore these in my second post.

Unique said...

-" A lot of teachers are insulted that we think we can do as well as they at educating our own. It is a personal and professional affront."

Which I find extremely amusing. It means the teachers ahead of them did their jobs.

It's an increasingly specialized world. It's takes an increasingly specialized education to keep up with it.

Like they always say, 'smaller class size is better.'

Andrea said...

Ah, something I've been meaning to talk about at some point. :) The short version, I've concluded, is that they think we are getting away with something. Everyone else goes to school and all that, and we don't. Just the very nature that it is different cause some people to cry "foul" or "unfair!"

Anonymous said...

Andrea: And in turn, it raises the possibility in their minds that if you don't "follow the rules", there's nothing that means they themselves have to either. Which can cause anything from momentary stomach twinge to an overwhelming righteous fear in the sense of having your entire world foundation ripped out from under you, depending on how much you submit to arbitrary "authority" in your life.

Mary Beth said...

GReat post! I am just beginning to homeschool this fall. The objections of my family members are practically word for word what you said...

Janine Cate said...

Good luck Mary Beth!

Homeschooling is a great adventure.

Henry Cate said...

In response to Nicole's last question: "Should we be our children's sole educators?"

For the question isn't are we the sole educators, but "Who is in charge?" My wife and I sub contract out a lot of the education of our children. We hire tutors to teaching them piano, violin, and clarinet. We use various curriculums. We are not trying to do it all on our own, but as parents we are making the decisions.

At public schools the teachers and administrators only mildly listen to requests from teachers.

As parents we believe we have a great responsibility of raising our children. Currently the public school system does a poor job of educating. We don't want to inflict a poor education on our children.

Henry Cate said...

From Nicole: "I can appreciate what you're saying Henry, and I think there are cases where some public schools are quite deficient and inept. However, I think that there are just as many that are phenomenal institutions for education."

I think you are saying that about half of the public schools are pretty decent. The studies I've read say different. Thomas Sowell's "Inside American Education" references dozens of studies showing a huge decline over the last fifty years. A huge percentage, I think half in the California University system, of students entering college have to take remedial classes.

I am aware of a number of decent public schools, but the vast majority are giving children a sub optimal education. Check out Susan Wise Bauer's "The Well Trained Mind."

Janine Cate said...

Nicole, thanks for your comments. I'm moving the discussion to a new post.

Anonymous said...

tragically my view of homeschooling is it is a means to limit what is leanred by a child for the sake of religious ignorance. furthermore, these types of hires are employment liabilities because they cannot negitoate any social or business situations because they never have had to. these poor kids cannot function in the real world. they didn't get 12 years of that throutghout public / private education.

Janine Cate said...

Sound like you had a bad experience with a homeschooler.

Anonymous said...

I've had a bad experience with a homeschooler--many, in fact. Younger relatives from two sides of the family are homeschooled, and particularly in one case, their parents use this as a tool to keep them from experiencing anything outside of their sphere of influence. The resentment and anger the older children feel at the boredom, social inertia, and lack of intellectual breadth and undeveloped social skills that was the result of their parents' inept homeschooling is vented on me, and frankly, I consider what they experienced was abuse. That said, I also understand that it was the parents' fault in how they homeschooled their kids--and the religious excuses they used for sheltering their children from any knowledge outside of what they wished for them--that created such socially inept and intellectually stunted individuals. However, we are often our own worst critics, and I expect there are a lot of parents out there who think they are doing a great thing by homeschooling, and yet have their own agendas--religious, emotional, psychological--that have nothing to do with quality of education, and everything to do with their parents' unresolved issues with school or society. For all you pro-homeschoolers out there, I would say please allow your children to socialize and teach them independence and social skills from an early age. Allow them to have friends and trust that they will make the right decisions in terms of morals and ethics based on the way your family lives, not on isolation from the world in general. And please consider that once they leave home, they need to operate in the real world, not in a vacuum, and social skills, a modern physical appearance (enough with the teenage girls who are made to look like 10 year olds because of parents with their own sexual shame issues!), and comfort in social situations are also important types of education. I am not saying my experience is relevant to all home-schoolers. I am saying many parents use homeschooling as a way to isolate their children from the world, and as a way to impose their thoughts, feelings, and ideas on their children while attempting to prevent them from thinking, feeling, or experiencing things for themselves. This to me is neurotic and fear-based, and I believe akin to abuse, because you prevent the child from growing into an independent individual. I also think that allowing a homeschooler to decide whether s/he wants to enter a regular school at high school age is a good idea. For better or worse, most children need companions other than their families in order to prevent loneliness and isolation. This is not meant to flame anyone on this board...but just to inject another point of view from someone who has seen a lot of homeschoolers, and originally thought it was a great idea, but changed his mind. One of the biggest problem I perceive is that the parents are the teachers (unless you choose to go with group teaching), and it is not a great idea for children to have one point of view--from anyone. So if you have 2 parents with an agenda that includes isolating the kids from the real world (and yes there are a lot of homeschooling parents I met like that), there is no one to provide the children with another perspective. Finally, I suggest anyone who homeschools stop holding it up as a badge of honor. I see this a lot, and I see mothers in particular who get caught up viewing themselves as almost-saints for homeschooling. Like breast-feeding, not everyone is able to do it, and it should not be held up as the only way to do things, "or else." If you find you don't like spending all day every day with your kids, and it doesn't seem to be working, it really is okay to cut your losses and send your kids to a regular school. I think some homeschooling parents get caught up in the vision of themselves as better than other parents, and it is hard to admit defeat. Not every parent can, or should, homeschool. It requires a temperament that, frankly, I think few parents have. I see this as one of the problems in my family, and especially in a family with a lot of kids, the burnout factor can be rapid, and it is the kids who suffer. Instead of the parents making a big issue of how great it is that they deal with their burnout, they should consider the kids' needs as well, and consider their kids might be burned out as well (I know one of the complaints from 3 of my sister's kids was, to paraphrase: "Imagine having your mother as your teacher...we didn't know when "mother" stopped and teacher began.") And I agree with some of the posters--one should contract our a lot of the educational and extra-curricular activities, if only to allow the children to be around other kids, and to experience teachers who are other than their parents. The worst experience with my relatives' children was with the family with the kids whose parents did not contract out any of the school subjects, except a few musical lessons. One of the hardest things they experienced was not having any guidance in the later "grades"--they were given books and expected to finish the course workon their own, with no active teaching, partially because I think the parents were not up to teaching the later course work. This is hard enough for a 16 year old--but imagine having only your mother or father to report to; there was not incentive and not excitement in learning at this point and many of the kids just gave up (in fact three never "graduated" high school). I realize this is a worst-case scenario; but it is important to see all sides of things, and mostly I am concerned for other kids out there who would be subject to this type of ignorance from well-meaning but self-centered parents. I hope you all can consider this as constructive criticism, not blanket criticism, and especially if you have not yet decided on homeschooling, allow yourself flexibility in the decision-making process.

Janine Cate said...

>Anonymous said.....
>I've had a bad experience with a >homeschooler--many, in fact. >Younger relatives from two sides >of the family are homeschooled

Actually, I know a few homeschoolers like you describe. But, I know some really wonderful homeschoolers, too. The same could be said for my friends with children in public school. Kids with wacky parents are going to struggle no matter. School can dilute the influence of a struggling parent, but it can also bring a boat load of other ills.

So which is worse, "teenage girls who are made to look like 10 year olds" or ten year olds who dress and act like prostitutes because of what they see at school? If you think I'm exagerating, you haven't looked at the back to school ads.

I could go on and on with horrible things that go on at my local school. While you are very aware of the short comings of your relatives who homeschool, you are probably unaware of all the problems with your friends whose children go to school.

You also mentioned that "three never 'graduated' high school." The average graduation rate in the United States is around 70%. Even if your relatives had gone to school there is a 30% chance they wouldn't have graduated anyway.

So, don't assume everything would be rosy if only they went to school.

I agree with you there are people who have no business homeschooling. Here are a few guidelines we suggest in Is homeschooling right for you?

We encourage families to homeschool and to homeschool well. But, each family needs to look carefully at their own situation.

LaHeh said...

I am sorry, but I have to disagree with you on this one. When I was in high school, I was bullied. I used to think that homeschooling was good because it protected kids from other aggressive kids, until I met a woman who was homeschooled.

I work in customer service and this woman freaks out every time a customer is rude to her, even when they ask her to do simple things. If you don't share the same views as her, she won't make any effort to get along with you. She has had two mini-breakdowns where she cried so loud that people around her couldn't work. Whenever my manager asks her to do something, she always complains and tries to get out of it. She complained to my manager so many times about these little problems that he told her to start solving them on her own.

This woman has a lot of problems which I believe stem from her being homeschooled. If she had to go to school with kids who didn't think like her, she wouldn't have so many problems getting along with people who don't think and act like her now. She would learn to do something about her problems other than complain and cry because she would be called a baby if she acted like that.

Janine Cate said...

LaHeh,
You gave a perfect example of my point. You've had a experience with a "bad" homeschooler and generalized it to the entire homeschool population and you've assumed a cause and effect relationship.

I know people like you described who went to school. In both cases, (school or homeschool), the major influence is the parenting style of the parents and the personality type of the child. With the wrong combination of parenting style and personality, the kid comes out a whiny mess on the other side.

April said...

I am dumb founded by the ignorant comments of the anti homeschoolers here. With all the problems that you hear about daily on your local news dealing with the state of public schools, can anyone really believe that public school is somehow the more noble choice?
Where I live the school funds have been so misused that to save money that they are not turning on the heaters until January and asking teachers to take a week off with no pay. How can a child learn anything with the ridiculous distractions that public school has to offer? I homeschool both of my older children and as of right now they are both two years ahead of their public school counter parts.
I agree that there are some really bad homeschoolers out there, but guess what... there are allot of really bad public school teachers, who should have quit years ago, but thanks to teachers unions can keep their jobs anyhow.
The bottom line is that there are many homeschoolers like myself, that are very engaged in making sure that our kids get an outstanding education and also have many outside activities. I find the anti home schooling propaganda that is pumped out by the teachers unions extremely insulting. Its because I love my children that I take on the responsibility of educating them, instead of handing them over to the inadequate mess that is the public school system.
If these anti home schoolers would get in contact with their local home schooling moms group, they would find that most HS kids are happy, very social, and better educated than their PS counter parts.

Henry Cate said...

April, thank you for your comment. You make some great points.

Anonymous said...

As an ignorant product of public education, I somehow see no home schoolers in my University.

Homeschooling can be wonderful, but to say that it is the only way is entirely incorrect.

Janine Cate said...

>Homeschooling can be wonderful, but to say that it is the only way is entirely incorrect.

Did I say that? I think you got it backwards. The point of WhyHomeschool is that Public Education is NOT the only way to an education or a future.

From our Blog Header:

"Mission statement: On this blog we explore why homeschooling can be a better option for children and families than a traditional classroom setting."

So many parents are pressured to send their children to government schools, as if it were the only option.

Anonymous said...

I went to a dirty dirty state school and I still got into Oxford! Mind you though when I was up there for intervews I met a girl in her first year who had only been in conventional eductaion for two years previous and she's in charge of the student union :) I think it should be horses for courses really, whatever suits you best.